All Blacks ease to second victory over Wales
BY GREG FORD AT WAIKATO STADIUM
Mission accomplished. Bring on the Springboks.
They were the two sentiments which prevailed after the All Blacks (unlike last year) made it a clean sweep of the June internationals.
Wales were beaten 29-10 in Hamilton, in relatively comfortable fashion.
Dan Carter booted Wales off the park with five penalties and a conversion and the visitors played with more resolve than in Dunedin a week ago, which would have pleased the All Blacks coaching troika of Henry, Smith and Hansen.
On Sunday morning at 10am, after they have digested last night's events, they will reveal who did, and didn't, make their squad for next month's Tri Nations. The series looms as the All Blacks' most important before next year's world cup.
Next year's annual jaunt against our two Southern Hemisphere cousins will be severely abbreviated. That has placed special meaning on this year's, and in a fortnight we will know whether the All Blacks have been able to bridge the gap with the Springboks which emerged last year.
The secon test, in front of a crowd of 29,200 – 1300 below the ground's capacity – gave us little insight, for one simple reason. South Africa is in a different league to Wales and Ireland, the All Blacks' opponents in this year's opening three tests.
But there were several encouraging signs. Wales provided much stiffer resistance at scrum time in Hamilton, than in Dunedin.
The contest was fairly even until the end of the match when New Zealand finished the strongest, and several All Blacks continued to stake their claim in test rugby, none more so than Cory Jane.
The Hurricanes wing has picked up where he left off with the All Blacks last year, playing outstanding rugby on the wing.
Carter has shaken off the cobwebs that plagued him during his Super rugby campaign, as have Richard Kahui and Tony Woodcock, while Richie McCaw has proved much more effective in test rugby. It remains a mystery as to exactly why. The rules used in test and Super rugby are identical.
But McCaw played a significant role in plugging the All Blacks' leaky defence in New Plymouth.
Jamie Roberts scored Wales' sole try last night, the first by a Welshman against the All Blacks since 2006.
Like last week in Dunedin, both teams shadow-boxed for much of the first half and one of the few All Blacks to emerge with any merit was Jimmy Cowan.
The fiery All Black halfback was in a vociferous mood marshalling the All Blacks pack, particularly late in the first half when they mounted several rolling mauls close to the Welsh line.
Cowan manhandled the Black pack, and physically hauled players out of mauls and rucks back into position. It wasn't pretty, but it was invaluable practice before the expected onslaught in a fortnight's time by the South Africans, the current undisputed champions of the world when it comes to the rolling maul.
The only pity was the Welsh didn't respond in kind. More than anything, the All Blacks needed practice at defending phalanx-like tactics. But the Welsh were happy to kick as much of their possession as possible deep into the All Blacks' half.
Eventually trouble arrived for them in the form of Jane. He has been an absolute handful in the series and scored the All Blacks' first try of the night from a routine attack.
The only other incident of note was a yellow card to Lee Byrne just before the break for a clumsy lifting tackle on Tom Donnelly. Given Donnelly has played little rugby in recent weeks, the lock did well to last until the 48th minute. He was replaced by Adam Thomson who played on the flank, a move which forced Jerome Kaino to pack down in the second row.
Cowan was yanked at the same time, replaced by Piri Weepu, and Henry also used the hit-out to blood Rene Ranger 25 minutes from the final whistle, with the game safe at 22-3.
Ranger featured in a couple useful runs and Aaron Cruden scored an opportunistic try just before the end when a Welsh defender inexplicably failed to flop on the ball in his own in-goal.
But a bevy of handling errors by the All Blacks was cause for concern. Conditions were moist but could not be blamed for what was the most worrying statistic to emerge from the night.
New Zealand 29 (Cory Jane, Aaron Cruden tries; Daniel Carter 5 pen, con, Piri Weepu con) Wales 10 (Jamie Roberts try; Leigh Halfpenny pen, Stephen Jones con). Halftime: 13-3.
Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?